Wind and power problems in Triangle, helicopter rescue in mountains as cold moves in

From staff reportsJanuary 3, 2014 

— Stiff winds Friday morning brought tree limbs down on power lines in numerous places in the Triangle, keeping power company crews scrambling to restore service and sparking a house fire in Raleigh.

In Swain County in western North Carolina, a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter crew and members of the North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team retrieved three Appalachian Trail hikers who were unprepared for cold and snow when the weather system blew ninto the state late Thursday.

National Park Service rangers got to the hikers about a half-mile from the Tennessee border Friday morning and reported that they were hypothermic and could not walk out of the area, the state Department of Public Safety said.

The Raleigh fire broke out shortly before 6 a.m. in a single-family home in the 2000 block of Reaves Drive after a limb brought down a power line to the house and it started the blaze, Assistant Chief Kendall Horcutt said.

Firefighters got the blaze under control quickly and kept it from spreading to nearby houses, which the wind always makes a concern, Horcutt said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries in the fire or from downed power lines in streets.

Duke Energy Progress reported that more than 1,500 customers had been without power at one point, but that had been reduced to a few hundred by 8 a.m., according to the utility’s outage information.

The company estimated that a few customers likely would not get back electricity until mid-afternoon.

The National Weather Service said it expected gusty winds of 30 to 40 mph and sometimes as high as 45 mph.

Forecasters also warned drivers to watch for black ice on roads and especially bridges after Thursday’s rain.

The team that rescued the hikers was part of a unit that combines National Guard and State Highway Patrol aircraft and pilots with Office of Emergency Management personnel and specially trained members of local emergency service agencies.

You can check the location and status of power outages on the Duke Energy Progress outage map.

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